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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Straight Outta Newy: Chris’ journey to national spotlight

Animals, travel, human connection, and surreal experiences.

These are a few of the things that consume Australian TV host and veterinarian Dr Chris Brown’s life.

From humble beginnings in a vet clinic at Merewether, Chris has become a face the nation knows and trusts.

In 2009, he shot to fame when Bondi Vet aired on Network 10, exploring his life as a veterinary surgeon in Bondi Junction, where he still works.

Now, the 42-year-old is a staple on our television screens, featuring as a host on The Living Room and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.

When he was growing up in Newcastle, he had no idea his life would lead to where it is now.

“I was kind of interested in animals and also flying and I didn’t imagine my career would result in me combining the two of them in a bizarre way because I am always travelling and obviously still see a lot of animals,” he told Newcastle Weekly.

“My dad was the local vet in Merewether for years and years, so I learnt the ropes that way and then, despite seeing the long hours and the various challenges that being a vet presents, I was strangely still keen on doing it for a job.

“I posted something [to Instagram] recently about this segment on I’m A Celebrity called Break It Down With Dr Brown and it involves a really convoluted, scientific explanation of a very complicated camp matter and I saw a comment from someone saying: ‘Do you reckon in vet school Chris thought this is where his career would go?’

“The answer to that is absolutely not.

“I think if you had shown me that 15 years ago, I just would have laughed. It’s quite bizarre but I enjoy the diversity and the chance to be creative.

“Being a vet will always be my number one passion but to have a creative outlet, as well as a very scientific one, gives me a nice balance.”

Chris adds that he loves working on I’m A Celebrity because it is a wild, unpredictable and unique ride that has become a staple of the Australian summer.

He says managing all his commitments is a “happy madness” and that being in the public eye is a surreal experience.

“I am very tall; I can’t really hide, so it’s hard to blend in. I get asked animal questions in the most obscure places in the most obscure ways,” he said.

“I think that is probably the thing that takes up most of my time and provides me with the most amount of amusement.

“I certainly noticed that over Christmas in Newcastle there is no hiding in the surf and usually the locals at Newcastle Beach or Merewether Beach give me plenty of stick and have a good laugh out in the water, so that is normally a bit of fun.

“I don’t think I will ever get used to the recognition or to people stopping me to say hi but I think it is nice and a nice compliment because it is a sign that people are watching what you do – I always appreciate it.

“At the same time [though], I still really enjoy my time alone, I enjoy being able to have those anonymous moments and being able to get away from crowds and just do that sort of thing.

“I think a lot of Newcastle and Hunter Valley people are really grounded and defiantly real and down to Earth because Newcastle is the type of place where you get reminded if you are not.

“So, I think that’s a useful thing.”

Aside from what we see on television, Chris says some of his career highlights are not as well known to the public.

“If I can combine a really interesting situation and location with a really amazing animal, then that’s probably pretty close to being a career highlight,” he said.

When Chris was in Costa Rica, he treated an electrocuted sloth and, when in Antarctica, he swam with a leopard seal under a sheet of ice.

“There is a Labrador puppy that I saved from a really severe snail bait poisoning on Bondi Vet, which I think is probably the best vet work I have done,” he said.

“It was such a crisis situation where seconds really mattered, and I felt like I did really well and it just happened that there was a camera there.

“Working with lions in Africa is probably another highlight.

“I mean, when I was in Antarctica, I ended up face-to-face with a leopard seal.

“I was in water that was zero degrees with an ice sheet above us and was just sort of in this underwater dance with a leopard seal.

“It’s those little moments of wonder where you realise that very few people get to experience that, and I am lucky enough to see that sort of thing.

“That’s when I really appreciate where I am.”

Moving forward, Chris says his goal is to keep challenging himself and trying new things.

One thing will always remain the same though: the love he has for his hometown.

“I always enjoy getting home,” he said. “I still talk about it as if it is home, which is interesting.

“When I talk to my dad about when I am coming back, I always say I am coming home – I never say coming back to Newcastle, which is a nice thing.”

You can catch Chris in the finale of I’m A Celebrity this Sunday 31 January from 7.30pm on Network 10.

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